Retailers like to think of themselves as different from other sectors. And, while there are of course similarities to other sectors, there are some differences. There is a very rapid pace of change in Retail. We all know that retail is a very competitive environment with so-called established and dominant players suffering from new hungry entrants to their market.
To remain competitive against the onslaught of increased competition, both on the high street and online, the number of projects and programmes being launched is increasing not decreasing. Often these initiatives have very tight deadlines although I’m not sure it was ever different!
Senior management is relying on projects being delivered by a certain time and their commercial plans are based on these timescales. Delays to these projects, especially if the delay is only realised at the last minute, can have a significant effect on the Retailer’s plans. What is needed is a PMO with a toolset that can monitor these initiatives and highlight areas of concern. If the toolset and processes surrounding the tools are ‘appropriate’ then senior management can either take remedial action on the projects that are failing or, in a worst-case scenario, delays to projects can be communicated to commercial teams who can then adjust their plans accordingly.
This all sounds sensible. However, the keyword here is ‘appropriate’. There are many PMO tools that are available and some are real leviathans. The scope of functionality is immense but the downside is often the inflexibility of the toolkit and the army of PMO analysts that you need to feed this monster. I’ve seen many examples of these large toolsets at retailers but they are used predominantly for timesheets and financial reporting. Rarely are these large tools used for monitoring projects and governance. Yes, it is important to know the capital expenditure for period 5 against budget, but it is also important to monitor key risks, issues, and milestones. What is needed for most retailers, even the large ones, is a tool that recognises the speed of change that is required in Retail and the importance of governing projects properly. Bringing projects back on track or recognising when the project will actually be delivered, and with what scope, is massively important to retailers.
So how do you know if you’ve picked a leviathan? One ‘tongue-in-cheek’ signal that the PMO/PPM tool that you have is the ‘wrong one’ is that it meets all your requirements! In a tender process, you go to key stakeholders and ask for their requirements and wish list. As is natural lots of ‘nice to have’ requirements come up and you would then score alternative product offerings on how well they met all these requirements. If a tool meets every single requirement, it is probably the wrong tool. Complex large tools are usually hard to use and you can drown in data.
The second key signal is the length of time the tool takes to be configured –or is that customised – before it can be used. If the answer is months not days or weeks, this is another sure sign that what is being implemented is a very large system which is probably not nimble enough for your needs.
At Bestoutcome, our Retail PMO tool can be implemented in days if not hours. It is highly configurable but does not need coding changes in order to configure the software. It doesn’t cover every single possible aspect of a PMO tool, but it is nimble, easy to use and holds one version of the truth. PM3 is used by many retailers including Dixons, WHSmith, and Selfridges.